Top positive review
10 people found this helpful
Popular philosophy with depth
on 9 October 2011
If you've ever wondered about what the self is, then The Ego Trick is an accessible and thorough introduction.
Julian Baggini approaches the subject as a philosopher, but draws on ideas from a wide variety of places, from neuroscience to Buddhism. He interviews people whose sense of self has changed dramatically for a variety of reasons and recounts the experiences of those who have suffered various kinds of brain injury that affected their sense of self. He also discusses the idea of self with philosophers of many contrary viewpoints.
Each of these intriguing insights leads us closer to understanding the idea of self. It is as if each discussion is a small piece of the puzzle, either giving us one aspect of the self, or showing what the self can't be, in both cases forming a more complete picture. This is not a book which simply states its opinion and preaches it until you wearily submit. There's a real investigation and discovery. The "bundle theory" that is the book's eventual explanation of the self emerges from these disparate ideas which seem to have only grasped small aspects of the whole self.
Like myself, many people will find the book challenging to their pre-conceived ideas of self, which is exactly why they should read it. The discoveries I made while reading it were often unsettling at first. For example, the tendency for people to apparently change their selves in different situations. When given due consideration, however, this made me feel more understanding towards people whose selves seem quite different from my own.
Those who've read Julian Baggini's other books will be familiar with his highly-readable and non-technical style. The Ego Trick is more in-depth and more thoroughly researched than his previous work and is so demands more concentration. That said, this isn't a book aimed at philosophy geeks, but at anyone with an enquiring mind. If anything, I'd say it could've gone into more detail, but this balance is always a fine one.
In conclusion, this is an excellent and amazingly-accessible discussion of the self that encourages non-philosophers to understand what is a pretty complex topic.